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Mali Peace Accord: Actors, issues and their representation

After a long process of dialogue and negotiation, a new peace accord has finally been concluded between the Malian Government and two coalitions of armed groups that were fighting the government and against each other, namely the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and the Platform of armed groups (the Platform). The new peace accord, Accord pour la paix et la réconciliation au Mali issu du processus d’Alger [Accord for peace and reconciliation in Mali emanating from the Algiers process], was formally signed on 15 May 2015 by the Government of Mali, the Platform and two groups forming part of the CMA. The remaining CMA groups signed the accord on 20 June 2015.

The peace accord, which will lead to direct elections of local representatives, offers real potential for peace consolidation and enhanced local participatory governance. However, the accord’s silence on the modalities to allow for the representation of interests, issues and perspectives of the diverse groups within the Malian society means that it fails to address adequately the inclusion claims underlying all episodes of the conflict, and risks perpetuating the recurrence of violence. Tackling these representational aspects would enable the development of an effective inclusive structural basis for the ambitious local government institutions envisaged by the accord, and would respond to the self-determination and self-development needs of the diverse social groups comprising the Malian society.


Actors and issues of contention

The principal non-government actors in the peace process are the CMA and the Platform. The CMA is comprised of the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad (HCUA), the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA), a faction of the Coalition du Peuple de l’Azawad (CPA), and a splinter group of the Coordination des Mouvements et Fronts Patriotiques de Résistance (CMFPR–II). The Platform is comprised of the Coordination des Mouvements et Fronts Patriotiques de Résistance (CMFPR–I), the Groupe d’Autodéfense Touareg Imghad et Alliés (GATIA), and splinter groups of the CPA and the MAA. Whereas the recognition and inclusion of all contending actors in the peace process constitutes a commendable constructive approach to resolving conflicts, the actual fragmentation within the various groups demonstrates the absence of leadership among the movements, which in turn leads to a lack of clarity as to the issues in contention and the appropriate means to address them.

The existence of two distinctive coalitions of rebel groups indicates the presence of multiple and divergent claims against the state of Mali. The one clear distinguishing feature between the two coalitions of armed groups is that the CMA’s movements have consistently pursued claims of self-determination, while the movements in the Platform have sought the resolution of existing political and socio-economic grievances within the unitary state of Mali. Beyond this difference between the two coalitions, none of the movements has presented a clear agenda of its claims, nor the constituency it is representing in this struggle.

The constituency aspect is particularly significant in relation to the self-determination claim and in consideration of the multicultural diversity that prevails within the regions in contention. The importance of clarity over who is represented by the movements can be illustrated, for example, by the siding of the GATIA with the Platform and not with the CMA, despite the latter being seen as a predominantly Touareg movement. In addition, while Article 6 of the peace accord contains a provision for increased representation of northern populations in national institutions, there is no indication as to how this increased representation will be determined.


Issues and their representation

Apart from the threats to peace posed by terrorist groups, and transnational and organized criminal networks, several internal issues underlie the conflicts in Mali. These internal issues include the self-determination or autonomy claim pursued by the CMA movements, the socio-economic marginalization of northern regions, pervasive corruption, impunity, inter- and intra-community conflicts, and the lack of inclusive mechanisms in the management of public affairs. Although these internal issues have been recognized by all the parties to the peace accord, there is no association between specific issues and contending groups in a way that may prompt representation and accountability over the proposed measures for redress. Instead, the terms of the peace accord offer a comprehensive reform of state institutions to improve their effectiveness in meeting citizens’ needs and the integration of members of the different armed groups into various state institutions, including the government and the defence and security institutions (see in particular Articles 1(c), 6 and 31). This will have two important implications. First, the implementation of the accord will compel the rebel groups and movements to dissolve. Second, once leaders of the rebel movements have been integrated into state institutions, any monitoring of delivery on the pledges in the peace accord will need to be carried out by citizens themselves. This lack of actor-structure to pursue the realization of agreed changes and to account for it to the members of the Malian society who are concerned by the particular issue creates a risk of furthering the emergence of rebel movements.

This raises the question as to what forms of representation can accommodate and sustain the inclusion and participation needs of the various social groups in the reformed governance institutions so as to avoid a recurrence of violence. While a precise answer to this question has been omitted from the 2015 Malian peace accord, the lack of clarity cannot be ignored for long given the parties’ commitment in the preamble to an ‘innovative renewal of the country’s national unity and territorial integrity respectful of its cultural, ethnic, geographical and socio-economic specificities’. This suggests that the parties to the accord are committed to devising and implementing the most appropriate forms of representation in order to accommodate the inclusion and participation needs of the various cultural and ethnic groups comprising the Malian society.

Some plausible modes of representation with the potential to accommodate this requirement include proportional representation, quotas in electoral lists, reserved seats, and the redrawing of boundaries for electoral jurisdictions. These modes of representation can be combined and supplemented by representation in commissions and boards of state institutions or civic associations. Finally, since any form of representation presupposes authorization and accountability, complementary measures should be taken to enable active relationships of authorization and accountability between constituencies and representatives.

The development of appropriate modes of representation could be realized through the Monitoring Committee of the implementation of the peace accord (Comité de Suivi de l’Accord) whose mandate includes, among other things, ‘support to the government in the adoption of all necessary measures for an effective implementation of the peace accord’ (Article 60). As this committee comprises representatives of all the parties to the agreement and the mediation team, it is perhaps the most relevant platform for furthering dialogue. It could also deal with institutional and practical aspects related to the implementation of the peace accord, particularly during the stipulated interim period. The interim period will last for 18 to 24 months following the signing of the peace accord, during which time the parties to the accord should adopt the ‘legal, regulatory, and constitutional instruments needed for the establishment and effective functioning of the new institutional, political, security and defence, as well as, social, cultural and economic development frameworks’ (Appendix I).

Overall, it appears the 2015 peace accord offers the necessary comprehensiveness and flexibility needed for the development of appropriate institutional mechanisms and structures that accommodate inclusion, participation and peaceful interactions among the diverse groups of the Malian society. It is hoped that the parties will maximize this opportunity to put those mechanisms and structures in place.


The French text of the accord is available here.

The report of the UN’s Secretary General on the situation in Mali of 11 June 2015 is available here.



Dr Gaudence Nyirabikali was a Senior Researcher in the Mali Civil Society and Peacebuilding Project.